|Fire + Earth That Even Play with 'Tradition'|
Works which would probably be bound to embody a traditional "functional" beauty if in Japan, appeared free of tradition in Canada. I was shocked at viewing "FIRE + EARTH: Contemporary Canadian Ceramic", because the works with traditional "functional" beauty had no trace of the destined dilemma between "tradition and innovation" prevalent in Japan. I had the impression that "tradition" in Canada was even part of romanticism or Orientalism.
Itabashi Art Museum, in hosting "FIRE + EARTH," had one request to the Burlington Art Centre; namely, that the exhibition be composed mainly of objects and clay sculptures. It was a natural request given the fact that our museum had a collection of avant-garde art and was known for exhibitions of such works from the Taisho and Showa periods.
Therefore, frankly speaking, I had some objections when I flew to Canada last August and witnessed preparations for the exhibition in Burlington. The number of functional pieces was more than I had expected.
I immediately asked Mr. Ian Ross, Executive Director of the Burlington Art Centre, and Mr. Jonathan E. Smith, Curator of the Collection, to add three or four objects and sculptural pieces.
That evening, as I relaxed among the warm hospitality of the staff of the Burlington Art Centre, Volunteer Council and Members, I was also busily thinking about how I should treat the functional works and how they should be introduced.
I decided that it was lucky for the museum to be able to exhibit pieces it was unfamiliar with. As I viewed the pieces of traditional functional beauty over again, I noticed that they do not give a heavy or ponderous impression, unlike their Japanese counterparts. That realization led me to understand that Canadian functional beauty, although it appears linked to tradition, is actually free of tradition. At least, I thought, the works had no hint of tradition if this meant something binding. From an outsiders perspective, I believe this tradition-free state is one characteristic of contemporary Canadian ceramic art. This exhibition will be the first ever in Japan to provide and overview of Canadian ceramic art. However, the field has been introduced in small pieces in the past. Let me trace the history. Canadian ceramic artists were first introduced in Japan in the 1971-72 exhibition, Contemporary Ceramic Art: America, Canada, Mexico and Japan, held at the National Museums of Modern Art in Kyoto and Tokyo. At that time, five artists represented Canada, including Marilyn Levine and Victor Cicansky. The next chance was in 1981. The Kyushu Ceramic Museums Contemporary Ceramic Art in the World covered Marilyn Levine and Victor Cicansky again. The following years, Kimpei Nakamura planned an exhibition called Art and/or Craft-U.S.A. and Japan in which Marilyn Levines works were included. The National Museums of Modern Art in Kyoto and Tokyo again covered Canadian artists in The Evolution of American Art-The Eloquent Object in 1989, bringing pieces of Marilyn Levine and David Gilhooly. Three years later, The Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art in Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park had an exhibition titled, Talkative Teapots, where three Canadians including Paul Mathieu were introduced. Most recently, Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum in 1994 hosted International Contemporary Ceramic Exhibition-Modern Vessels and Molding and presented Susan Low Beer.